- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

You would think 17 years’ worth of environmental studies would be enough to replace a bridge. That is not the case on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the government has spent nearly two decades studying the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.

This two-lane span to Hatteras Island has been overdue for replacement since 1993. Ever since then, people have suffered while an endless series of repetitive environmental studies have delayed construction.

Now a federal agency and a litigious special-interest group are calling for even more environmental studies. The Department of the Interior and the Southern Environmental Law Center are opposed to the practical solution recommended by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The new plan would begin construction right away and has overwhelming public support from Hatteras Island residents, the Dare County Board of Commissioners, state officials, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Highway Administration.

Watching the delays for environmental studies reminds me of a recent situation in Louisiana dealing with the oil disaster. There, an elected official wanted to build an immediate barrier against the impending threat but was stopped from doing so until various bureaucratic agencies could conduct sufficient environmental impact studies. Sadly, oil reached the shores before their studies could be completed.


Those who are delaying the Bonner Bridge replacement show no regard for the safety of millions of people who must cross the deteriorating structure every year. Suppose people were on the bridge during a collapse, like the one that occurred years ago on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis? If this worst-case scenario should ever occur, the blood of those who perish will be on the hands of the people who are dragging their heels.

JACK SHEA

Commissioner, Dare County Board of Commissioners

Southern Shores, N.C.